"Ralph Breaks the Internet" is made by the same team as the previous movie "Wreck-It Ralph" with director Rich Moore, writer Phil Johnson and producer Clark Spencer, all of whom were also involved in the creation of animation "Zootopia". Wreck-It Ralph is a video game character voiced by John C. Reilly in the movies. In the original movie Ralph inhabits an arcade with lots of arcade games and meets up with Vanellope von Schweetz from another game. The two characters are back in the sequel "Ralph Breaks the Internet" but this time as the title suggests, the pair manage to escape from their arcade world into the Internet where they have further adventures meeting all sorts of new characters. Original composer Henry Jackman from "Wreck-It Ralph" back in 2012 returns to score the sequel which is now on general release in cinemas.
The original "Wreck-It Ralph" score used some arcade-style game music, and this idea is further adapted for the "Ralph Breaks the Internet" score. As Jackman states on the soundtrack's promotional material: "'Wreck-It Ralph' is one of the best animated films of recent times and I was really proud of the score. What makes this one different? There's a clue in the title, 'Ralph Breaks the Internet' - we've moved from the arcade to the internet. While we can retain some of the original material, there's a new layer we had to create and integrate. There's a distinction between arcade electronica and internet electronica, which sounds more modern." This musical conceit is clear from the begining of the sequel with the composer striking a balance between two largely distinct elements. One element pays homage to the film's video game heritage evolving into more sophisticated web games but retaining electronic sounds and game music stylistics. The other element is the traditional role of a film score to support the film with its varied demands from comic action adventure to slapstick fun and emotional moments. That second element is delivered by a great orchestral score. Many composers have created some of their best work in support of animated features, and Jackman's Ralph is up there with the best of them. The electronic computer elements just add an extra layer of sonic appropriateness.
On the album the score proper starts with track 4 "Best Friends" which introduces the main theme and characters and is very much a traditional Arcade Game track, with "Circuit Breaker" providing fast game action punctuated and augmented by orchestral flourishes. A few largely orchestral tracks later we reach "The Internet" with its blending of more sophisticated electronica, and soon we meet a new character "Shank" from a racing game and her track "Shank" is carried by a percussive rock orchestra with wah-wah guitars and almost Bondian orchestral hits. "Hangin' Out" slackens the pace and reduces the intensity but continues with the same soundset. Another character "Buzztube" requires some comedic suspense scoring, while "Overnight Sensation" takes the main theme from "Best Friends" and develops it into an EDM track - game music electronica with occasional bursts of orchestra.
One of the musical highlights is "Vanellope's March" which evokes true John Williams orchestral stylistics becoming a bouncy version of the Imperial March Theme which further morphs into a segment of the familiar Star Wars overture! After a few suspense tracks "Scanning for Insecurities" quotes the Shank theme and things get more intense. Over the next few tracks we reach a climax with "Kling Kong" before things turn homely with "The Meaning of Friendship". Then musical references galore in "A Big Strong Man in Need of Rescuing" which quotes from a string of Disney movies in quick succession for a gathering of many Princess characters (all voiced by the original actors). The game music returns with "Comfort Zone" before a happy ending in "Worlds Apart".
In addition to Jackman's score, the soundtrack features some songs. Firstly "Zero" is a catchy new song by Imagine Dragons which we hear during the film's credits. According to Imagine Dragons' lead singer Dan Reynolds, the film's emotional themes are reflected in the song. "It's a pretty timely movie in a lot of ways in that it addresses some of the issues of identity and loneliness unique to this internet generation", says Reynolds. "Ralph's internal struggle for self-acceptance really resonated with us, and this song speaks to that." The next song is "A Place Called Slaughter Race" with music by the legendary Disney songwriter/composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas) and lyrics by writer/director Phil Johnston and Tom MacDougall. This is an ensemble musical affair sung by the character voices led by Sarah Silverman and Gal Gadot (as Vanellope and Shank). Then track 3 "In This Place" re-images the previous track as a pop song, sung by recent Clean Bandit collaborator Julia Michaels for Ralph 2's end credits.
At the end of the soundtrack album we have a reprise of two of these songs. Alan Menkin's instrumental version of "A Place Called Slaughter Race" pays tribute to old-fashioned romantic film scoring with glorious musical theatre excesses. And then to close we have an electronica-infused instrumental version of "In This Place". So in a sense we have 4 versions of the same song, all very different in character while retaining a common spark. These songs are a nice touch and slot in nicely with the Jackman's excellent score. The album is available for download and on CD at these links: Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.